Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Peter MacKay takes liberties with history in Bastille Day speech

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been getting attention for what some are calling his novel reworking of the War of 1812 — one where the French were apparently fighting side-by-side with the British in battling the American invaders.

There is only one problem with that, say those who attended MacKay’s speech at the French embassy in Ottawa last week. The French supported the Americans in the War of 1812.

Cuts to Statistics Canada a costly error

Lacking the evidence that now-cancelled programs provided, policy-making will become a guessing game

For many of us, it started with the census. In a controversial move, our government switched from a mandatory to a voluntary census in the summer of 2010. The former Statistics Canada chief, the media and the research community reacted with shock and largely opposed the change to no avail.

Last week, StatsCan quietly continued this trend when it published a media advisory listing programs identified for elimination or reduction to meet savings targets that were announced in the Economic Action Plan 2012 ($33.9 million by 2014-15).

Ottawa should act on committee suggestions

From within the House of Commons comes a cry for an improved system to enable government members to more thoroughly review public spending.

There is no denying that the annual federal budget is a massive collection of departmental spending planned for the coming year and that keeping track of how taxpayers’ dollars are doled out is no easy task.

Ontario voter data breach may involve 25 ridings

Ontario's chief electoral officer has said the personal information of voters in as many as 25 ridings in the province has been compromised.

Greg Essensa said at a Tuesday morning news conference that Elections Ontario can't account for two unencrypted memory sticks containing information about people who voted in last fall's provincial election. Two Elections Ontario staff members did not follow standard protocol when it came to handling that information, Essensa said.

Typically, such information on memory sticks has to be password protected and encrypted.

Toews takes swipe at judiciary on gun crime after shooting melee in Toronto

OTTAWA - Public Safety Minister Vic Toews chided Canada's courts Tuesday for striking down mandatory sentences for gun-related crime after a deadly shooting in Toronto that killed two people and sent nearly two dozen others to hospital.

"We are very concerned about the courts doing that, because illegal firearms — especially those smuggled in from the United States ... minimum prison sentences are absolutely essential to create a strong deterrent against that kind of activity," Toews said in an interview with Prairie network Golden West Radio.

Canadians and debt: The struggle is getting worse

A new study on household finances shows that Canadians are struggling even more with their mortgage and debt than they were two years ago.

The Canadian Association of Chartered Accountants annual survey of household finances found that nearly half of Canadians say they couldn’t manage their mortgage and debt payments if interest rates rose. Nearly 30 per cent of those said they couldn’t even handle an interest rate increase of less than two percentage points.

Political attack ads won’t define leaders without big airtime buys, say pundits

Recent attack ads by federal Conservatives and NDP got the attention of national media, but the parties will need to spend big money on airtime if they want to connect with voters—an unwise strategy this far out from an election, say some pundits.

The public got a preview of what an NDP attack ad looks like earlier this month when the New Democrats released a fast and loose 30-second spot slamming Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) economic record over a menacing drum beat and a few unflattering still-shots of the Prime Minister. The clip ends with quick mentions of changes to Old Age Security and Employment Insurance.

HSBC laundered billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels, Senate investigation finds

WASHINGTON—Lax controls at Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, allowed Mexican drug cartels to launder billions of dollars through its U.S. operations, a Senate investigation has found.

The extensive report on London-based HSBC Holdings PLC by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations also says U.S. regulators knew the bank had a poor system to detect problems but failed to take action.

Government of Canada Threatens to Defund Successful Self-Governing First Nation

CARCROSS, YT, July 17, 2012 /CNW/ - On October 1, 2012, the Canadian government intends to defund the Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) unless it signs an unfair, unequal and non-negotiable funding agreement. This would be the first time in Canadian history that a self-governing First Nation is stripped of its funding in this way, thereby devastating its people, and effectively throwing them into poverty.

"The Carcross/Tagish First Nation are a proud self-governing people that only want funding that is fair and comparable to other self-governing Yukon First Nations," said C/TFN Kha Shade Heni (Chief) Danny Cresswell. "Canada is forcing us to either accept inadequate and unequal funding, so we cannot properly care for our people, or receive no funding, which would be devastating to our First Nation."

Ottawa’s wind-farm study a case of suspiciously political science

The Harper government is not known for fostering a strong relationship between science and public policy. Last week, scientists and researchers held a protest in Ottawa against cuts to hundreds of jobs and the closure of facilities like an Arctic atmospheric research laboratory that helps monitor the ozone layer and a facility to study the effects of water pollution. So it is peculiar, then, that the government has now commissioned a study on the health effects of living close to wind turbines – a decision that seems to have more to do with politics than with policy.

Public money should not prop up asbestos mining

Canada's mining industry is globally competitive, and has long succeeded without much in the way of government subsidies. It even thrived in the last recession by responding to market demand. Yet instead of letting markets drive mining investment in Quebec, the provincial government is bailing out the asbestos industry using taxpayer money -- and this for a product that is harmful to human health.

In recent years, market demand for chrysotile asbestos produced in Canada shrunk dramatically which lead to a halt of chrysotile mining. But instead of letting mines stay closed, taxpayer funds will reopen an unprofitable chrysotile mine.

Israel's old certainties crumble in Arab spring fallout

On a ridge high above the Golan plateau, the telltale antennae and golfball radomes of an Israeli surveillance station point north-east towards Damascus. In the valley below, minefields, barbed wire fences and a blue UN flag mark the frontline between the two most powerful armies in the Middle East. Behind it is a country in the throes of civil war.

Round the clock, from its perch on Mount Avital, the Israeli army's unit 8200 eavesdrops on Syria, a former bastion of stability that is now crumbling along with other old certainties about the region. It is simple enough, say, to monitor the communications of an armoured division or track a MiG fighter squadron, but far harder to understand the calculations going on in Bashar al-Assad's head. "Tanks are the easiest thing to follow," says a veteran intelligence officer in Tel Aviv.

US geoengineers to spray sun-reflecting chemicals from balloon

Two Harvard engineers are to spray sun-reflecting chemical particles into the atmosphere to artificially cool the planet, using a balloon flying 80,000 feet over Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The field experiment in solar geoengineering aims to ultimately create a technology to replicate the observed effects of volcanoes that spew sulphates into the stratosphere, using sulphate aerosols to bounce sunlight back to space and decrease the temperature of the Earth.

Romanian PM systematically abusing constitution, says EU

European authorities have waded into a brutal political feud transfixing Romania, accusing the prime minister, Victor Ponta, of systematic abuse of the country's constitution and undermining the rule of law in his campaign to unseat the country's president.

A 22-page report from the European commission highlighting Romania's failures to observe EU legal standards, obtained by the Guardian before being released on Wednesday, says the Ponta government has ignored the constitution, threatened judges, illegally removed officials from key posts, and tampered with the democratic system of checks and balances in order to try to secure the impeachment of President Traian Basescu.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair stands his ground in Harper’s hometown

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair strode into the heart of Calgary last week wearing full cowboy regalia — white hat, blue and white plaid shirt (with just a hint of orange), a huge bronze belt buckle (under a bit of a paunch), jeans and black boots.

With his beard he looked more like a grizzled range rider than Stephen Harper ever will. The Quebec MP was even pronounced the best-dressed politician at the Stampede by a keen observer of cowboy fashion.

Did GOP Money Man Sheldon Adelson Violate Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

A decade ago gambling magnate and leading Republican donor Sheldon Adelson looked at a desolate spit of land in Macau and imagined a glittering strip of casinos, hotels and malls.

Where competitors saw obstacles, including Macau's hostility to outsiders and historic links to Chinese organized crime, Adelson envisaged a chance to make billions.

Adelson pushed his chips to the center of the table, keeping his nerve even as his company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in late 2008.

Senate Republicans Fight to Protect Secret Donors

On Monday evening, Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a bill that would force corporations, unions, and shadowy nonprofits such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS to reveal the biggest donors behind their political ads. The vote was 51 to 44.

The goal of the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), is simple: Shine light on the dark money in American elections. The bill requires unions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations to report any campaign-related spending over $10,000 within 24 hours and to name donors who give $10,000 or more for political purposes. The bill also calls for an end to using shell corporations to mask donors' identities, a tactic used by former Bain Capital director Ed Conard, who funneled $1 million through a shell company to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future last year.

EKOS Poll Finds Potentially Catastrophic Collapse For Conservatives

Polls this far out from the next election have little to say about what will happen when Canadians next cast their ballots, but a new survey from EKOS Research highlights some troubling indicators for the Conservative Party.

Conducted between June 27 and July 5, the EKOS poll found 32.3 per cent of Canadians support the New Democrats while 30.2 per cent are behind the Conservatives. At 19.5 per cent support, the Liberals are far behind and only a few tenths of a percentage point above their 2011 election result.

Canada Food Inspector Cuts Could Threaten Health And Safety, Critics Say

TORONTO -- Frances Clark’s last moments were not peaceful. Flu-like symptoms and seizures wracked her body. Her breathing deteriorated. At the end, she was “gasping, like a fish out of water,” her daughter recalled later in court documents.

The 89-year-old woman died on Aug. 25, 2008, the first victim of a listeriosis outbreak that killed 23 people, sickened thousands more and triggered the biggest food recall in Canadian history.

Department of Defence looking for contractor to fix fire safety problems ahead of release of audit

The Defence Department has failed to deal with problems affecting its fire protection systems in facilities across the country and is now scrambling to hire a company to handle the issue before an auditor general’s report on its poor performance becomes public, according to a leaked DND email.

DND is worried the auditor’s findings will cause embarrassment since the department has known about the problems with fire protection equipment and systems for the last three years, according to the document.

Amy Edgars: Carving out a career based on values

Surrounded by Old Massett's argillite carving community, Amy Edgars began carving at the age of eight. After early aspirations for a career in nursing, Amy was inspired by her father to pursue the ancient art of argillite carving, taking up the craft full-time at the age of 16.

"I saw my dad and them carving every day, so I thought I better sit down and try it out," says Amy. "I've loved it ever since, even though my first pieces weren't the best."

Preston Manning is no saint, as secretive Carleton U scheme illustrates

Nowadays, folks think of Preston Manning as a benign force in Canadian politics -- possibly because of his scratchy voice and grandfatherly demeanour, and partly because on a personal level he is most certainly an honourable person.

This is a dangerous misunderstanding.

It's worth remembering that while the former Reform Party of Canada leader may not be a sinner, he is certainly no saint, as the media echo chamber here in Alberta would like to lead us to believe.

Manning is an unflinching market ideologue as dedicated as his sometime protégé Stephen Harper to destroying the Canada we have built together over the past 150 years and remaking it in the brutalist image of Tea Party USA. He is an effective and sometimes sneaky opponent of the great public services like our universal health care system that it has been our particular Canadian genius to build up over generations.

The fight to lead Canada's First Nations

It was just a tweet. But 140 characters spoke volumes about the race to become the next leader of the Assembly of First Nations.

"Should I be aggravated when my some of my fellow male colleagues … make sexist jokes as we prep for the APTN debate? I think so!"

The accusation of sexism, tweeted by Joan Jack, an Anishinaabe lawyer from Manitoba and one of seven contenders vying to replace AFN national chief Shawn Atleo on Wednesday, was more than just political jockeying.

17 injured in Alabama bar shooting

A gunman opened fire at a bar in the hometown of the University of Alabama, wounding multiple people, police said Tuesday.

A total of 17 people were being treated at DCH Regional Medical Center, hospital spokesman Brad Fisher told The Associated Press.

Four of the victims have been admitted to the hospital, and two of them were receiving critical care, Mr. Fisher said. It wasn't immediately known whether all had been hit by gunfire, he said.

Business association calls for new rules for credit, debit, mobile payments

TORONTO—The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling for a stronger code of conduct for the credit and debt card industry, including rules that give merchants more flexibility and includes provisions for new electronic forms of payment.

The association, which has more than 100,000 member businesses across Canada, says the current code gives merchants some power to deal with the card industry but argues the rules need changes to remain relevant.

Bank of Canada stays put on interest rates, says economy doing worse than thought

OTTAWA — Low borrowing costs will remain for awhile longer after The Bank of Canada moved Tuesday to keep interest rates low, noting the economic recovery is being blown slightly off course by a perfect storm of global turbulence that is affecting all major economies.

But in a statement that was not as dovish as some anticipated, the central bank gave no comfort to those looking for the next move to be an interest rate cut, rather than an increase.

The Prodigal Frum

David Frum has been cuddled as lovingly in the ample bosom of the great Republican establishment—and derived as much nourishment from its plump teats—as any other man in the last thirty years. The Canadian immigrant, who turned 52 in June, has been a Wall Street Journal editorial writer, an editor at Forbes, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a speechwriter for George W. Bush—Frum helped write the “axis of evil” line—and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The last of those jobs, the AEI fellowship, paid him $100,000 a year, and it did not actually require any work.

Peter Kent And Diana McQueen Tour Oilsands Monitoring Sites

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - The federal and Alberta environment ministers have been given a first-hand look at expanded environmental oilsands monitoring that is intended to answer the industry's detractors in Canada and abroad.

"It gives some of our critics abroad tangible scientific evidence of the responsible way the oilsands are being developed," said federal minister Peter Kent, who toured the region Monday with his provincial colleague Diana McQueen.

Gordon Campbell's Hospitality Tab Tops Other Diplomats

Wining and dining at Canada’s embassies abroad escaped the axe as the federal government grappled with across-the-board cuts in this year’s budget.

Former British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell is racking up the biggest hospitality tab so far this year.

U.S. Drought 2012: Current Drought Covers Widest Area Since 1956, According To New Data

WALTONVILLE, Ill. — The nation's widest drought in decades is spreading, with more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of drought and most of the rest enduring abnormally dry conditions.

Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a drought covered more land, according to federal figures released Monday. So far, there's little risk of a Dust Bowl-type catastrophe, but crop losses could mount if rain doesn't come soon.

Shyanne Charles, Joshua Yasay, Identified As Victims Killed In Toronto Block Party Shooting

TORONTO - Toronto police are calling for witnesses to come forward following a deadly shooting at an outdoor neighbourhood party that left two people dead and sent 21 others to hospital, including an infant, in what police are calling the worst incident of gun violence in the city's recent history.

More than 200 people were at the party in the city's east end Monday night when gunmen sprayed the crowd with bullets.

Elections Ontario discovers privacy breach of voter data

Elections Ontario has discovered a privacy breach that involves the personal information of voters in up to 24 provincial ridings.

CBC News has learned that memory sticks containing personal information about voters have gone missing from the office of the chief electoral officer for Ontario.

The information on the missing memory sticks includes the full name, address, gender and birth date of voters and may also include information on whether or not these same individuals voted.

Obama's drone attacks and Tuesday death club

Both Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among the Friends of Syria who met in Paris last week to demand that Russia and China end their support for Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime. Both Russia and China have decided it's in their national interest to help Assad stay in power and they refuse even to pressure him to end the terrible brutality against his own people.

But Russia and China know how to fight back. While they were being condemned on Syria, the two jointly issued a statement condemning the American use of unmanned aerial assault vehicles -- drones -- to kill its enemies wherever it chose. Easy enough to mock the Russians and Chinese as hypocrites, of course, but harder when Jimmy Carter asserts in the New York Times that drone strikes violate human rights in a way that "abets our enemies and alienates our friends."

Mexican drug cartel ‘queenpins’

There was a time not long ago when Mexican police could parade accused drug cartel leaders and hit men before the press without having to wear ski masks to hide their own faces. Those earlier times couldn’t quite be described as halcyon, but much has worsened since outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón launched his war on drugs nearly six years ago, a war that has left more than 50,000 dead in cartel-related slayings and triggered brutal infighting between the cartels. Ski masks are now de rigueur for police—they risk being slain if identified by the cartels. Something else has changed. A growing number of those being trotted out before the media are now women, with allegations against them just as gruesome as those against the men.

Downtown Toronto kids lead enviable lives, their parents tell Holyday

Downtown parents are scolding Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday for his “disturbing” notions of what growing up in the inner city is all about.

They’ve taken to a “tumblr” — a cross between social media and blogging — called Downtown Kids to email their thoughts to the Etobicoke-residing Holyday who, last week at Toronto city council, declared that downtown Toronto is no place to raise children.

“Where will these children play? On King St.?” Holyday said in reaction to a push to have a condo developer include family-friendly, three-bedroom units in a proposed 47-storey tower at King and John Sts. “I mean, I could just see now: ‘Where’s little Ginny?’ ‘Well, she’s downstairs playing in the traffic on her way to the park!’ ”

Toronto council hikes street parking rates, reduces sports field fees

Toronto City Council increased street parking rates and reduced new sports field fees during a flurry of activity last week before its summer break.

Rates at parking meters and machines will be gradually hiked across the city over the next six weeks, beginning with the downtown core. Street spots that cost $3.50 per hour will now cost $4, spots that cost $2.50 per hour will cost $3, and spots that cost $2 per hour will cost $2.25.

The increase, the first since 2007, is expected to generate an additional $4 million per year. Mayor Rob Ford argued against deferring the decision until the October council meeting, as Councillor Adam Vaughan wanted, saying the city couldn’t afford to surrender three months of extra revenue.

Quebec Superior Court declares parts of the 2009 federal budget unconstitutional

The Quebec Superior Court of Justice has just delivered a major blow to the Harper government in a decision involving the CBC's unionized workers. The Court has ruled that a number of key clauses were unconstitutional in the budget legislation limiting spending which was passed on March 12, 2009.

It's  a clear victory for CUPE Local 675 who challenged the legislation for violating the right to collective bargaining, a right protected under the guarantee of freedom of association in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The bill actually overrode wage increases that had previously been negotiated in the collective agreement with no opportunity to renegotiate.

Twilight of the Elites: Chris Hayes on How the Powerful Rig the System, from Penn State to Wall St.

Amidst a series of recent scandals that have rocked the global banking system, journalist Chris Hayes joins us to discuss his new book, "Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy." The book examines how Wall Street and other major institutions, from Congress to the Catholic Church to Major League Baseball, have been crippled by corruption and incompetence. Hayes is host of the MSNBC weekend show, "Up with Chris Hayes," and is editor-at-large of The Nation magazine. "One of the most insidious aspects of the current distribution of resources in this country and the current inequality we have isn’t just that it’s bad for people on the bottom of the social pyramid but that it makes people at the top worse," Hayes says. "It conditions them to be incompetent and corrupt."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Spying on Scientists: How the FDA Monitored Whistleblowers Who Raised Concerns over Radiation

The Food and Drug Administration has been found to have launched a massive surveillance campaign targeting its own scientists for writing letters to journalists, members of Congress and President Obama. The scientists were expressing their concern over the FDA’s approval of medical imaging devices for colonoscopies and mammograms that could endanger patients with high levels of radiation. The covert spying operation led the agency to monitor the scientists’ computers at work and at home, copying emails and thumb drives and even monitoring individual messages line by line as they were being composed in real time. The agency also created an enemies list. We’re joined by the FDA whistleblowers’ attorney, Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center. "For the first time, we now have a glimpse into what domestic surveillance of whistleblowers looks like in this country with the modern technological developments," Kohn says. "The agency [sought] to destroy the reputation of these whistleblowers forever."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --